It’s happened again. Another madman with a gun, another human being’s life shattered, bleeding, slowly oozing away, doctors frantically helpless to stanch the bleeding, families devastated, children traumatized, adults wondering how it happened… and yet, knowing very well how it happened.
We mourn the lives lost to gun violence. We denounce the shooters. We wonder how we missed the signs of their sickness. We turn blind eyes against the signs of the gun shops in plain view.
Just one day before a madman walked into the Holocaust Museum and shot a security guard to death, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton exercised one of her most decisive votes ever — she withdrew the D.C. voting rights bill that would have given her a real vote in Congress because of the Ensign Amendment, a treacherous rider attached by another member of Congress to strip D.C. of its local right to control the flow of guns in the city. Congressman Ensign’s action was shameful, a cynical attempt to trade the safety and security of D.C. citizens in exchange for the right to have voting representation in Congress. No other citizens of the United States are treated with such contempt by members of Congress.
Delegate Norton showed courage and great leadership in walking away from the opportunity to gain the Congressional vote in Ensign’s insidious and unfair exchange. Now, a day later, as the family of museum security guard Stephen Tyrone Jones prepares his funeral, Norton’s decision is even more important and urgent. The safety and security of people in the nation’s capital should never be a pawn in political games, nor should the enfranchisement and representation rights of the citizens who live here have to be compromised by cheap political trade-offs.
A nation that has found a way to ban french fries made with trans fats, that imposes strict fines for not wearing seat belts, that forces smokers outdoors in subzero weather, that charges large fines against television networks for wardrobe malfunctions that expose body parts we see in the mirror every morning — a nation whose regulatory processes are manifest in every daily activity should certainly be a nation that can figure out how to keep guns out of the hands of madmen. Sure, let hunters have their fun (?), but hunting is not something that occurs on 14th Street.
Let’s also stop the mythologizing of the lone madmen as an isolated freak who has nothing to do with the extremist discourse that’s abroad in the land. Yes, they are almost all acting alone when they shoot. But there are lots of them out there, and there’s clear evidence of incitement on the many communication networks. The rise in hate groups is a very serious problem, and they bear arms.